Should my tech conference / community have a Code of Conduct? – Recommended Resources

(Header Photo from CSSConf EU 2015)

The short answer is here: tl;dr

Discussions about the necessity and relevance of Codes of Conduct for tech communities and at conferences or other events has been returning every few months over the past years. I’ve put together a list of fantastic resources about the topic that were written by great people. So I thought I’d make the list public here (jump to beginning of list).

From my (privileged) perspective as a co-organiser of conferences, speaker, attendee, and member of Open Source communities, I find Codes of Conduct extremely important. I’ve seen their relevance play out in practice many times over the past years.

But beyond my personal opinion, there are numerous very important reasons to adopt a Code of Conduct for your event / community.

AND, please: if you adopt a Code of Conduct, please make it a good one. Several marginalised people have put many hours of work into creating Codes of Conduct that actually help make spaces safe, and it’s very recommendable relying on one of these CoCs, instead of writing your own.

A toothless Code of Conduct that doesn’t clearly outline unaccepted behaviour, that is not enforceable, doesn’t state responsibilities and accountabilities, doesn’t include contact persons, and doesn’t support processes for reporting unaccepted behaviour even risks causing harm and endangering people.

Codes of Conduct are also about acknowledging our own limitations as event organisers or community members. They’re about the realisation that not everyone is like us, that our perception of the world is limited, and that the lived experiences of other people differ from our own. CoCs are about understanding which steps we need to take to make spaces safe, and make sure they stay safe – and reacting when events occur that endanger safe spaces. This is when a CoC becomes really valuable, because it becomes a tool that helps us stand up for our shared values, and show that we care about the humans in our spaces. And in the end, they’re about responsibility and accountability.

Relevance of Codes of Conduct and reasons to adopt one

Codes of Conduct 101 + FAQ (Ashe Dryden)

Great, long post in FAQ format. Includes definition of Codes of Conduct, examples for good ones, and the work around adopting one. The FAQ section debunks common myths and arguments against CoCs, e.g. “we’re all adults here”, “the law”, and “free speech”, and many more.

Why You Want a Code of Conduct & How We Made One (Erin Kissane)

Why Codes of Conduct matter, the learnings in making one, and some advice.


“…I see it as a sign that the event is committed to making it a welcoming space for women, and I do really only want to attend events where that is the case.”


“I worry about the conferences that are adopting codes of conduct without understanding that their responsibility doesn’t end after copy/pasting it onto their site.”

You literally cannot pay me to speak without a Code of Conduct (Rachel Nabors)

“When I promised not to go to conferences without Codes of Conduct, I wasn’t paying lip service to a trend, doing the popular thing to gain brownie points with my feminist besties. I meant every word.”

Codes of Conduct: When Being Excellent is Not Enough (Coraline Ada Ehmke)

“The idea that the software industry benefits from an unwritten law of unconditional and mutual respect is an extension of meritocratic thinking: it’s as unrealistic as the meritocracy itself.”

The New Normal: Codes of Conduct in 2015 and Beyond (Coraline Ada Ehmke)

“Although we can rightly celebrate the progress that we have made thus far, we must also recognize just how far we still have to go in making this phase in our cultural evolution a success.”

Making Tech Spaces Safe for Diverse Faces (Anjuan Simmons )

“We must examine the harmful outcomes that technology events foster: discrimination, aggression, and harassment. The only way to change these outcomes is to change behavior.”

Codes of Conduct (Mikeal)

“…my opinion didn’t ever really matter. I’m a white guy, I don’t get to decide what makes non-white non-male people feel safe and accepted.”

Sample Codes of Conduct

Practical advice for conference organisers / community leaders

Code of Conduct evaluations (Geek Feminism Wiki)

This post includes a comprehensive list of what makes a CoC effective, and examples that are evaluated based on these criteria.

HOWTO design a code of conduct for your community (Ada Initiative)

Key factors for CoCs, and what to look out for when creating one.

How much it cost us to make more attendees feel safe and welcome at .concat() 2015 (Stephan Bönnemann)

A breakdown of the financial efforts of a community event to help make their event a safe space, and their sources of inspiration.

Conference anti-harassment/Adoption (Geek Feminism Wiki)

List of conferences that have adopted a policy similar to Geek Feminism’s anti-harassment policy.

Creating safe, inclusive, diverse events & communities

Adopting a CoC is only part of what helps make events safe, inclusive and diverse. Here are some good resources that look at other factors as well:


“…[M]ost people in technology fields are white, male (specifically cisgender male), straight, abled, speak English as their first language or have had to learn English, and are between the ages of ~20 and late 40s. So if the community is rather homogenous, how do keep our conferences from being homogenous as well?”


Follow-up-post that includes valuable information and ideas that would work at any conference.

Organizing More Accessible Tech Events (Lacey Williams Henschel)

“Wide accessibility must become a part of everything we do in the tech industry, and our events are a critical part of that mission.”

Ten Lessons Learned from Organizing Diversity-Focused Events (Cat Small)

Here are some methods I’ve learned over the past two years to create well-attended, diverse events.

A Code of Conduct Is Not Enough (Maggie Zhou & Alex Clemmer & Lindsey Kuper)

“Despite ‘doing everything right,’ we failed to create a safe space for our attendees. How did we screw up?”

Technical Conferences (Geek Feminism Wiki)

A meta post with links to lots of valuable content. Highlights numerous common issues with and incidents at tech conferences, responses and solutions, personal accounts, statistics and more.

Resources for conference organisers (Geek Feminism Wiki)

Templates and policies to help organizers make more welcoming events.

Unlocking the Invisible Elevator: Accessibility at Tech Conferences (Liz Henry)

“Instead of complaining that disabled people just don’t come to your conference, do something that would make them want to come to it!”

Conference Inclusiveness (Coral Sheldon-Hess)

“I want to talk about the ways in which these conferences are welcoming and are, in fact, more encouraging of free expression than conferences that make “liberty” a central value, instead of hospitality/inclusion.”

Beyond Codes of Conduct: What Tech Events Need to Do Better (Shanley Kane)

There is still so much more to do.

How do I get more women to speak at my conference? (Anna Shipman)

Suggestions from a conf organiser to get more women to speak at your event.

How to host speakers who also happen to be parents of young children (Caroline Drucker)

“As a conference organizer, what can you do to help make your event more accommodating for a speaker with a baby (and thus get a kick-ass presentation)?”

Does Our Industry Have a Drinking Problem? (Rachel Andrew)

“[A]t about half-past five in the afternoon, everyone was holding plastic glasses of whiskey and cups of wine or beer.”


By L.

I walk fast.

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